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Friday, December 23, 2005

NBA Salary Cap Madness

Hoopshype, a blog about the NBA, has gotten a lot of buzz lately, and for good reason. It's a great site, well-organized, and chock full of information. The URL is, and I particularly like this link, to all of the salaries in the NBA.

Two things you'll note immediately are that the league's two best teams, Detroit and San Antonio, weigh in at #s 17 and 10 respectively. #1 are the New York Knicks, which just goes to show you that while excellence must be paid for, it cannot be bought.

I'm not sure that there's anything to glean about cap management other than with the Spurs, you have a nucleus of three outstanding players -- Duncan, Parker and Ginobli -- and several role players, some of whom (Finley, Van Exel) are probably taking less than they could get elsewhere. As for the Pistons, this could be a "last hurrah" type of year, as they have few long-term contracts and Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace will be free agents after the season. Most GMs like to bring in guys with championship rings, hoping that the aura of a champion will rub off on the rest of their team. Look for those free agents to be to get big offers to leave Motown.

Tool around the site and you'll see some oddities. Yes, Allan Houston's $19+ million does count toward the Knicks' salary cap, because somehow the Knickerbockers' brass forgot to take advantage of the veteran exception negotiated recently and cut Houston without his huge contract having to be counted against the cap. There's bad cap management (as in bad signings) and then there's terrible cap management (as blowing the rule that people thought was created with Allan Houston in mind).

The NBA's cap hardly lends itself to parity the way the NFL's does. (And look for the NFL Players Association to take a hard line in negotiations in order to enable its members to enjoy some of the benefits that NBA players have come to reap, as opposed to the NBA morphing itself into the NFL). Because teams have locked players up to relatively long-term contracts, here are the top 10 salaries in the NBA and the teams that are playing them:

1. Shaquille O'Neal, Miami. $20 million (hurt much of the year)
2. Allan Houston, New York. $19.125 million (out of basketball)
2. Chris Webber, Philadelphia. $19.125 million (injury prone in his early 30's and not an elite player).
4. Michael Finley, San Antonio. $18.613 million (Apparently Dallas is paying some of the freight here, and Finley comes off the bench for the Spurs).
5. Kevin Garnett, Minnesota. $18 million (Doesn't look like he'll lead his team to a title in the Great Lakes region).
6. Stephon Marbury, New York. $16.45 million (Poster child for what's wrong with league).
6. Allen Iverson, Philadelphia. $16.45 million (Gutsy player, doubtful he'll lead team to title, though).
8. Jason Kidd, New Jersey. $16.44 million (Player who makes others better; getting old, though).
9. Jermaine O'Neal, Indiana. $16.425 million (Superstar who deserves hefty payday).
10. Brian Grant, Phoenix. $16.123 million (Lakers are paying part of the salary for this undersized power forward).

Among others in the top 20 are such luminaries as Anfernee Hardaway, Keith Van Horn, Jalen Rose, Tim Thomas and Antonio Davis.

Read the whole list and see what you think. What amazes me is that, given this list, the tenure of the average NBA GM isn't shorter than that of the average NBA coach, because it should be. Some of this signings were ridiculous at the time and remain so today. Brian Grant? Tim Thomas? Who are people kidding?

The tragedy of it is that unlike the NFL, you make a few bad moves and your team could be stuck in a bottom-half-of-the-league limbo for a decade. In the NFL, despite how bad a front office can be, you're only a few drafts, a new coaching staff and a couple of key free agent signings from turning a 3-13 team into a 10-6 playoff team. In the NBA, a few bad long-term deals can keep you at 33-49 for years. What fun is that?

And why, oh why, do the fans continue to pay big bucks and keep on coming back?

This is not to say that the right players aren't worth big money. Those players -- the Tim Duncans of the world, for example, are. But those like Anfernee Hardaway and Antonio Davis, who are way past their prime, aren't worth the money and haven't been for years. You can't knock them for taking it -- their contracts were handed to them. But you have to question the basketball acumen of those who signed them up to these deals in the first place.

And then you have to admire the basketball IQs of the folks in San Antonio and Detroit. It's an interesting riddle, but they don't have all the money in the world in San Antonio, and yet they put out winner after winner, year in and year out. In contrast, they do have all the money in the world in New York, and they can't buy themselves happiness, love, or talent that can mesh together. True, they did buy Larry Brown's coaching services, but as I blogged before, the man is a basketball coach, not a magician. Without talent, he cannot win.

Even in New York.

Even with the Knicks so far over the salary cap that they could field two Pistons' teams with the money they're spending and have $8 million left over or field a Pistons and a Spurs team and have $2 million left over.

Salary madness, NBA style.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should there be a Salary Cap in Football?
Personally I think there should be! It’s just getting to be stupid money in football at the top of the premiership!
It’s always the same teams at the top proving that football success is based purely on money which ruins the idea of it being a sport! They’ve done it in rugby, basketball, hockey and American football and it makes the sports more competitive and better to watch!
I do a little Spread Betting from time to time and most matches don’t hold much surprise who is going to win, its boring! I want to see a team at the bottom pulling off an amazing season beating last seasons winners in a close fought battle!
Make things fair! It shouldn’t be about money!
All there is all that money in the premiership and barely any of it stays in the UK so it’s not even helping the economy!
From my Spread Betting, if I ever win big (which is never, I’m unlucky) it’s still nothing compared to the average premiership players weekly wage!
This Rant was brought to you by Spread Betting Spike. 

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